It has been a decade since Ruth Klinginsmith and Karin Wedemeyer embarked on their journey of establishing a music conservatory here in Sandpoint. Guided by their backgrounds as musicians (Ruth a violinist and Karin a German born and raised opera singer), the Music Conservatory of Sandpoint opened its doors to musical hopefuls, with just a handful of students in the cold back room of a dance studio, in September of 2009.
“I do remember our humble start-up when we set out to add to the music world in Sandpoint,” recalls Karin, Music Conservatory of Sandpoint’s (MCS) executive director. “As we had met in a little café, we patiently waited for our coffee to cool down, which took just enough time for us to move away from our initial idea of creating a Saturday workshop to improve general music reading skills to a full-blown idea of creating a music conservatory. One that one would imagine on the East or West coast—but Sandpoint?”
Opening after the economic downturn in 2008, the future of the Conservatory was not guaranteed—but 10 years later, it has grown to be more than anyone could ever have envisioned. In 2010, MCS moved into its current home at 110 Main Street, where their vision of providing excellence in musical training and becoming the “Julliard of the Northwest” has continued to be the guiding light.
“The school grew, and with endless creative capital and the deep desire to make the fine arts relevant again, we set forth on our quest for excellence,” states Karin.
Today, Karin, along with the rest of the MCS family, is excited to announce that Music Conservatory of Sandpoint has acquire the building that they have been leasing these past 10 years—making it MCS’s permanent home. Located in the historic landmark—formerly the old City Hall and fire station—on the corner of 2nd Avenue and Main Street in Downtown Sandpoint, this is where MCS will call home for years to come. And that’s not the only reason to celebrate. Pend Oreille Arts Council is joining the Conservatory and has relocated to join them in the building, uniting the performing arts and visual arts at one location.
“It turned out to be a wonderful partnership as we, together, pursue the dream to turn this building into the Center for Arts and Culture, with the fire doors set to open in spring of 2020,” smiles Karin. “[The space] will host different organizations with their own identities, but the place itself will be a beacon of both performing and fine arts in Sandpoint,” she adds.
Plans are already in the works to renovate the historic landmark. MCS has plans to preserve the historic building during its facelift, in which they plan on raising the twin fire doors to create an open-air gallery space. They are also exploring the option of putting solar panels on the rooftop to create a zero-carbon footprint.
The commitment to keep doors open over the years has required MCS to continuously engage with the community and potential donors. “While our staff gives two Serenades a year to raise funds for tuition assistance, our flagship event, Taste of Music, in March is set to raise funds for MCS in general to support accessibility and maintaining excellent staff. We raise funds for our Music Matters after-school initiative as well as honors programs and more,” says Karin.
Music Conservatory of Sandpoint is appreciative of all of the support they have received over the last 10 years: Columbia Bank, the Confidence Foundation, corporate and private supporters, plus many anonymous community partners. All have come together to realize the dream of a permanent location for MCS.
Over the past decade, the Conservatory has fulfilled its mission by expanding opportunities for arts accessibility in the Sandpoint community, teaching music with a consistent curriculum 365 days a year and successfully training aspiring young performers. At its inception, MCS offered mostly private classes and group instruction but over time has expanded to include accredited coursework and instrument departments, with new departments coming into existence such as the Theater Department and this coming spring the Music Therapy Department. “This has been part of our vision from the beginning,” smiles Karin. “It is most unusual to have a qualified music therapist on board! A true service to the community, especially Sandpoint being a wellness community.”
An important part of the Conservatory’s philosophy is its firm belief in collaboration with partners like the Lake Pend Oreille School District and Pend Oreille Arts Council. “This helps us amplify the desire to keep the fine arts relevant in our current educational systems, understanding the huge benefits of skill building. And for those who are artistically inclined, they will find themselves at home when they can pursue their dreams with so many cheerleaders around them,” affirms Karin.
The art of music is alive and continuing to thrive in Sandpoint thanks to a dedicated staff, ambitious performers and our supportive community— and a new, permanent home. “This is a very exciting time for our school and hopefully for the community as we look to make a dynamic contribution to the downtown economy, not to mention the world of fine arts,” Karin says.
If you would like to show your support, they invite you to attend one of their concerts or donate online by clicking ‘About’ and selecting ‘Friends of the Conservatory.’ For this interested in learning more about the Music Conservatory of Sandpoint’s programs, call 208.265.4444, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit SandpointConservatory.org.
Celebrating 10 years of Music Conservatory of Sandpoint, and many more to come … it’s music to our ears.